Summertime in Desire. The memories are many of the three months we were out of school and enjoying each day. We were fortunate to live in a home that was always filled with different genres of music. From my Dad’s love of Jazz (one of his favorites was Count Basie) to my Mom’s obsession with keeping up with the “Jet” Magazine’s Soul Brothers Top 20 List or the songs she heard on WBOK, my siblings and I were all up on the music of the times. One way Mom acquired her collection of top 45s was from the record trucks that rode through the streets of Desire.
Dad had to punch the clock before the sun rose, so Mom rode the public transportation bus to work each morning. Because she was not a quiet dresser, we would be involved in her preparation to leave the house. Checking to make sure her outfit was on point, waking one of us or all of us to get a second opinion, grabbing an umbrella if it looked like rain or for the heat if the bus was off schedule, making sure she had a bus token in hand and “NOOOO, please don’t turn off the fan!” Before central air conditioners in homes, gigantic Reed fans were most popular in the 50s and 60’s across the south. It blew comfortable, cool air at night and circulated hot air during the day. We counted our blessings that we had one to get us through the hot months of New Orleans’ summers, even if it was primarily used to get us through the steamy nights. When you heard the fan motor winding down, you knew it was time to start the date, or if you chose to lay in bed a little longer, it was understood that there was a chance of drowning in your sweat. Before she made it to the front door to exit, we were told what was expected of us that day. From hanging clothes on the clothesline, making sure that we checked the mailbox, then calling her at work to relay what had been delivered that day, to dropping shoes off at the Holmes’ Shoe Repair across the tracks, we were kept busy. One recurring chore on that list was “if the record truck passes before I make it home, check to see if he has…there’s money in the can.”
The waiting game began as the clock ticked, and finally, we could hear the sounds of Motown, Stax, Tamla, Atlanta, and Columbia, to name a few, in the distance. We would then make our way to the front porch to ensure we didn’t miss the purchase. Back in the day, Eddie 3 Way and Walt Boatner record trucks ruled the streets of Desire. Inching at a slow rate of speed (I can’t imagine today someone riding our pot-holed city streets in an open van sitting on a stool spinning 45s) with no skipped beats blaring from the speakers.
“RECORD MAN!” “RECORD TRUCK!” “STOP!” Folks would line up, some with paper notes containing the 45s they wanted to purchase. Others were prepared to hum instrumentals. Then some would give a sampling of the vocals of a song they did not know the name of. Some that were unsure of themselves vocally would speak the lyrics. A sample was played, and the purchase was made. There was a sense of pride as you walked away with the coveted 45, and sometimes there was a bit of envy as that song could be heard from your home throughout the neighborhood. It was all fun because today was your day, and tomorrow would be someone else’s.
Later in the day, Mom would return from work, and when that 45 was handed over to her, we knew our evening would be filled with music. It was great when it was a 45 that was a 2-sided hit. Sides A & B would be alternated, as in the photo (Soul Brothers Top 20 List of January 29, 1970, courtesy of “JET Magazine”), “Going in Circles” by the Friends of Distinction was #1. The flip side was “Grazing in the Grass,” a hit that reminds me of my childhood summers and the record truck.
Our home had an RCA High Fidelity Record Player with a record changer, so the new purchase was usually added to the stack of other recently purchased 45s with a few oldies but goodies added for good measure. Assignment completed. Mom was happy, and so were we.
Leslie Smith Everage